SpaceX successfully launched two of its own test satellites for the first time ever on Thursday. It launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
On Thursday, SpaceX launched the largest satellite network ever built. Thus, bringing high-speed internet to billions around the world.
The two mini-fridge-sized prototype spacecraft, named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b belonged to PAZ, an Earth observation satellite, for Spain-based Hisdesat. Tucked alongside the 1½ ton satellite for Spain’s military, however, were SpaceX’s own, smaller additions.
The two Microsats deployed from the rocket’s second stage 11 minutes after liftoff. Thus, they began communicating with Earth shortly after, according to CEO Elon Musk.
He also said both were nicknamed “Tintin A & B.”
“Tintin A & B will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near LA,” he said Thursday morning.
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The Microsat-2a and 2b will gather data to test and demonstrate the viability of SpaceX building a constellation of 4,425 Ka/Ku band low Earth orbit satellites.
So, if successful, the two prototype satellites will help pave the way for SpaceX’s plans to launch nearly 12,000 satellites to low Earth orbit as soon as 2024.
Trademark documents filed last year – and tweets by Musk himself – revealed that SpaceX has settled on a name for the nearly 12,000-satellite constellation that it will launch, operate and market to users: Starlink.
Catching the fairing
Using a high-speed boat known as “Mr. Steven,” SpaceX also attempted to catch the fairing, the round nose cone on top of the rocket. However, Musk tweeted that the boat missed catching the fairing “by a few hundred meters.” He also added that the fairing slowed down enough to land “intact” in the Pacific Ocean.
Before the launch, Musk noted that the fairing returns to Earth “at about eight times the speed of sound.”
“It has onboard thrusters and a guidance system to bring it through the atmosphere intact, then releases a parafoil and our ship with basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on tries to catch it,” Musk said, sharing a photo of the boat.
Thumbnail image: Falcon launch carrying 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. Credit: SpaceX